© 2006 Jane Clancy
“In each time and place, ideas about women’s hair reflected
ideas about women’s nature and about how women should live their lives.” –Rose
1920-1930: The Birth of the Bob
Actress Louise Brooks, 1921
Springfield Armory Workers with bobbed hair
At the end of World War I, women’s fashion resulted in comfort and
convenience. Long hair had been the norm prior to the 1920s, therefore cutting
ones hair to above the ear was shocking and rebellious.
The first bob hit the scene in 1920 when it was worn by actresses Louise Brooks, Clara
Bow, and Colleen Moore and were the cause for the wide spread bobbed craze across the country.
Women who started the “bob” trend had the reputation of being
promiscuous, because most of these women wore makeup, short dresses, and took
advantage of their “sex” appeal.
The bob lay its key significance in the fact that it paved the way for
future changes in women’s hair fashion, making hair a part of the global
“Girls are going to look like girls this year.” – Ruth
Murrin Good Housekeeping 1
Permanent waving process 3
By the late 1920s women began to grow their hair a little longer than previously
in the decade. Many had longer pieces of hair that fell in front of their ears.
By the 1930s the bob became even longer, reaching the back of their necks. This
gave the bob a more feminine touch, compared to the sleek flat look of the early
1920s. New techniques developed by salons, “Permanent” and “Marcel” waving,
allowed women who had straight hair to obtain flirty waves and curls.
Marcel waving used an iron, which was heated and then applied to the hair, where as
Permanent waving was a little more risky which involved a complex machine and
could only be done in salons. Hair or wave pins also came into the market as
a widely purchased product, which eventually evolved into bobby pins! Hair pins
were used widely by working women, especially in industry settings, who used
pins to hold their hair nets and bandanas in place.
Marcel Waving Irons 2
These new hair crazes caused the number of beauty parlors to rise from 5,000
in 1920 up to 40,000 in 1930! 4 Salons
also placed adds in magazines in news papers, in a 1920s July issue of Vogue, an
advertisement for a New York salon states: “Prominent stars have their
hair waved here. Why don’t you? No kinks, but a beautiful wave, well nigh
workers with WOW bandanas
Armory worker poses next to
Rosie the Riveter poster
By the mid 1930s,women began to use hairpieces to give hair more volume and
length. Stylish curls mounted on top and back of the head became the desired
styles of this time period. Much of this was due to practicality. With the start
of WWII, many women entered the work force, having stylish hair, which stayed
off of their face allowed for women to be fashionable at work.
WOW bandana keeps hair out of
the way on this Armory worker
In industry-based jobs, bandanas became fashionable hair pieces that helped
to keep hair from falling into their faces while operating machinery for example.
Rose the Riveter was the icon for this fashion statement.In her famous WWII
poster, she wears the WOW bandana. These were mass-produced and many
women working in the armory bought same bandanas to wear as outerwear and while
working on machines.
Women at Armory get a check up from Dr. Hazel Richards
of the Springfield Armory medical staff. As many have
dark hair, having blonde hair in this mix would allow you
to stand out.
In the 1920s some women would sneak into salons to get their hair dyed despite
the dangerous risks. The 1926 ban of hair dyes in New York City was further proof
of the danger of this process. 6 However,
the 1930s and 1940s made way for safer hair dyes, thus more women could achieve
their desired color of choice or hide embarrassing gray hair.
Armory Women in library
with blonde hair
Blonde hair grew immensely in popularity during this time due to actresses such
as Jean Harlow, Mae West, and Ginger Rogers. Also an influx of eastern and western
Europeans who had dark features began to flourish in America; thus American women
needed to find ways to differentiate themselves. Blonde hair was also seen as
something that was uncommon, therefore many women wanted to achieve the look
that few could obtain. 7
Bangs are banana curled in front
and in back of hair.
Dr. Hazel Richards examines an X-Ray.
The 1940s led to longer styles. Hair was often grown to the shoulders and
curled at the ends. Yet, for working women this style was a bit impractical so
they would often curl their hair back in banana curls going around the back of
the head brushing along the back of the neck. Curls were important in achieving
this style, many women would wear curlers to bed so their hair would come out
properly the following day. Women at the Armory used this style frequently during
WWII because it was easy to style with a hat or bandana and kept hair out of
1 Richard Corson, Fashion
in Hair: The First Five Thousand Years. (London: Peter Owen) 612
4 Rose Weitz, Rapunzel’s
Daughters. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux) 15
5 Vogue magazine July
6 Richard Corson. “Fashion
in Hair,” 616
7 Rose Weitz. “Rapunzel’s